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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. water portraits

I once saw comics artist Emmanuel Guibert at the French Institute, drawing like this in book dedications. It looked amazing, but people had to stand there for at least an hour, waiting for their book to dry before they could close it. It's fun, though; adding the ink looks like magic. (Here's a six-second video.)

Direct YouTube link

Here's the finished picture, and a few more I made:

I like how the green one came out. Sort of a mixture of Paddington Bear, Toad from Toad Hall and immigrant me.

Here's a video of Guibert, up to his tricks for Alan's War:

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2. scbwi conference 2015

Here's my favourite photo from this year's conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators in Winchester: debut author Kathryn Evans modeling her Seawig in front of seafaring costume judges Philip Reeve and Jonny Duddle.

Photo by Teri Terry

And check out the party costumes of organisers Dom Conlon (fish bones in the beard!) and George Kirk (giant squid, with Seawig!).

Photos by Philip Reeve, George Kirk & Candy Gourlay

The SCBWI Conference is a great chance for long-time friends and total newbies to meet up, celebrate their books, learn how to make and pitch new ones and generally muck about.

Photos by Candy Gourlay</a>

I've been to the conference before, but this was the first time I had a few hours to wander around Winchester, which looks sparkly and gorgeous in the run up to Christmas. Philip and I bought mulled wine at the Christmas market and I bought earmuffs; it was all very cosy.

Obligatory lovely Winchester Cathedral pics:

Actually, this was the view of the cathedral from my hotel room!

The cool thing about Winchester is that anyone who sleeps within a stone's throw of the cathedral gets two little elf-priests to sit at their feet all night. (Well, perhaps historically.)

SCBWI treated us to a nice dinner on the first night (and I wore my new Esther Marfo dress, love it love it).

Photo by George Kirk

We found out it was illustrator Clare Tovey's birthday so a bunch of us rallied to make her a cake.

Photo on left by George Kirk

Philip and I gave the opening keynote speech and George Kirk did an amazing job introducing us by playing a song she'd written for us on the ukulele. Wow!

Direct YouTube link

Thanks, George! Philip and I led everyone through a few of the activities we do with kids, to engage them in our books, including drawing, singing and creating and playing a giant board game.

Tweet (and pug) by @JoolsAWilson, photo by George Kirk

Then we got to listen to a talk by illustrator-write Jonny Duddle, who has a background in designing characters for computer games and who designed the pirates for the recent Aardman animated film. I loved hearing about his year at sea, when he got to crew an actual old-style pirate ship, which is sort of my dream; and how photos he took from that year became such valuable reference images for his later pirate picture books.

Despite posting those costume photos, I didn't actually get to go to the evening's fancy dress party. Philip was the Reeve & McIntyre ambassador while I kept a long-standing date with my husband Stuart back in London to go see the play Farinelli and the King. (Here's a picture of the glowing candle-lit Duke of York's Theatre.)

But it was great to see people being so creative! Well done on those costumes, guys, and it was fun popping in to see the conference illustrator exhibition!

Tweet by @SwapnaHaddow

One more photos of Nicky's Seawig; isn't she glorious? :D

Photos by Candy Gourlay

Huge thanks to George Kirk (here's her blog, Jan Carr, Dom Conlon, Candy Gourlay, Mo O'Hara, Suzie Wilde, Natascha Biebow, local P&G Wells booksellers and everyone on the team who helped to make the conference run so smoothly!

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3. guardian children's fiction prize 2015

This was a busy weekend! I'll blog next about the pirate shenanigans at the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Conference next, but first up, Thursday night's Guardian Children's Fiction Prize ceremony. Big congratulations to David Almond, who scooped this year's prize with A Song for Ella Grey! (Here he is with writer SF Said and me.)

David's books reworks the myth of Orpheus, whose wife Eurydice has died, about how he travels to the underworld to bring her back. (You can read a Guardian review by Marcus Sedgwick here.) I don't think anyone was surprised David had won, only that he hadn't won the prize earlier! (You can only win it once; Philip Reeve won it for the fourth book, A Darkling Plain, in his Mortal Engines quartet, so our books are disqualified.) I haven't yet read A Song for Ella Grey but I'm excited to dive in. (Click here to see the books on the prize longlist.)

Other highlights of the evening: Seeing illustrator and writer Michael Foreman and his hot-off-the-press new book spanning his career, A Life in Pictures. I think the last time I saw Michael was in 2008, one of the very first book events I went to, as a reviewer. He has an amazing career and he'd only just seen the first copy of this book; Philip and I felt honoured to get a peek. Seven Stories centre in Newcastle will be hosting a year-long exhibition of his work, tied in with the launch of the book, so if you're up there, do go along to see it! Here's a peek at some of his work on the Guardian website.

Second highlight, An Island of Our Own-shortlisted author Sally Nicholls brought along her new baby and I got to give it a cuddle. :) I've read An Island of Our Own and really enjoyed it, particularly the way she portrayed the Internet. So many stories I hear about kids and the Internet are about its dark side, but Sally focuses on the amazing power of the Internet for good, and how the young people in the story interact with it.

And one more highlight, getting to see Tall Story and Shine author Candy Gourlay. Candy's one of my favourite people but she's always surrounded by a zillion people she knows, and we're both very busy, so I see her A LOT less than I'd like to! But I did photobomb her a couple time that evening and it was great to see her a bit more at the SCBWI conference.

Hee hee! Polaroids have made a comeback! Here's one with Horrid Henry's Francesca Simon and with Philip.

A few more pics: Kate Saunders signing a copy of her shortlisted book Five Children on the Western Front, and shortlisted writer Jon Water (for My Name's Not Friday with Guardian reviewer Julia Eccleshare, Philip and last year's longlisted author Natasha Farrant</a> (for her second Bluebell Gadsby book, Flora in Love).

Shortlisted author Frances Hardinge (who always wears a good hat) and The Lie Tree which I'm desperate to read and I may have accidentally dropped that copy into my handbag. I adored her previous book, Cuckoo Song. (Here's a bit about that on my blog from earlier.)

And lots of Guardian child reviewers and shadow judges!

Big thanks to Emily Drabble (taking the photo here) and Children's Book team for inviting me along, and you can follow them on Twitter at @GdnChildrensBks and be sure to check out their website, which is packed full of the fun activities and tutorials that don't make it into the printed pages.

Find out how to draw PUGS here on the Guardian website...

Also, big thanks to Books For Keeps for featuring Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip and me in their list of essential Christmas gift books! And including Philip's Railhead in their Books of the Year list.

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4. creative pugs

Ha ha, fortunately this incessant 'follow me!!' thing in the comments isn't a problem on LiveJournal, as far as I can tell. Or Twitter or Instagram even, really. But on PopJam, it's definitely a Thing.

Went for a morning coffee today with Stuart and did a joint portrait drawing. :)

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5. cakes, pop and jam

At least two fun things are happening today! First, Cecily Milway is going to school for book week dressed as Astra from Cakes in Space. (Big thanks to her writer-illustrator dad for tweeting the photo!)

The other thing is that I've joined PopJam and they're going to give me a shout out this afternoon! If you're on PopJam, come find me at 'SarahMcIntyre'. And my co-author Philip Reeve joined just last night, so you can look out for him at 'Philip_Reeve'.

I found out about PopJam at Zoom Rockman's party from PopJam Content Producer Melisa Hasan ('melisa'), who encouraged me to join. And my first friends there were Zoom ('Zoom_Rockman') and Jamie Smart ('FindChaffy')! The app is free to download, and it's very creative and drawing-based. I haven't had a lot of time yet to explore it, but it seems really exciting. Also, PopJam has an 11pm bedtime, which is actually rather healthy.

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6. zoom rockman solo comics show

I've been watching Zoom Rockman make and publish his own comics for a long time - since he was about 11 - so I was keen to see his solo comics show, launching his Zoom Comic Issue No.11, which opened last night at lovely Westminster Reference Library, right next to London's Leicester Square.

Photo by Melisa Hasan, Content Producer at PopJam

Zoom doesn't just publish his own comics, he gets the whole idea of presentation and makes amazing props to go along with his comics. Check out this burger stand! His family are furniture designers, so they have good access to cardboard and Zoom makes the most of it.

If you're in central London, do drop by to see Zoom's work, right from his very first comic! It's helpfully labelled, and he can get away with all sorts of logo-related issues, at least until he turns 16. (He has an agent and there was at least one solicitor in the gathering, so possibly longer than that.) :)

Check out the cool stuff in the cabinet; Zoom's good at doing merch.

Comics guru Paul Gravett interviewed Zoom, and we got to hear about how he used to go to bed with a clipboard every night and make comics going to bed and comics waking up, and at school, too.

His headmaster was in the audience, named Mr Moriarty (for real), and he's made sure Zoom has time to work on his comics, and hasn't minded featuring in some of them. It was also interesting to hear how various television series have influenced his comics (which shows that telly doesn't necessarily squash creativity and can inspire, too).

Here's Steve Marchant, who's worked for a long time with the Cartoon Museum, inspiring kids to make and publish their own comics.

Here's a panorama of the show, with a glimpse of Zoom's little brother, Ace (in the luminescent hat). I had a quick look at some of the books on the shelves - particularly the art books - and I'd love to pop in sometime and do some sketching from some of them.

Time Out says the show runs until Sat, 21 Nov, so stop by soon! And you can buy comics directly from Zoom's website.

Congrats, Zoom! I met Melisa Hasan there from PopJam (a free app) and now I've got my own account, but so far only Zoom (Zoom_Rockman) and Jamie Smart (FindChaffy) are my friends, so feel free to come friend me there (SarahMcIntyre)! I'll try to post some more artwork soon.

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7. Norway final blog

One last Norway blog post!

Here's the lovely architect couple, Ingvar Torbjørn Øritsland and Eli Aarskog Monsen, who let me stay in the flat above their art gallery.

I got to talk with radio presenter Egil Houeland! You can listen to his interview with me here on the Radio102 website. (Egil introduces me in Norwegian, then we switch to English.) The title translates as 'Norwegian kids are funny'.

On my last day I did a public family event and everyone drew a T-Rex! (You can get more drawing tips on the Dinosaur Police webpage.)

Such wonderful T-Rexes, I took pictures of lots of them:

Big thanks to John Rullestad, Astrid Havn Tranøy and Vibeke Johansen for helping me out with this event, and to everyone who came along! The local bookshop hosted a signing afterward and let me draw on their wall, so look out for that if you're ever upstairs in their reading lounge.

I ended up drawing several portraits, and here's one of festival worker Silje Maria Skaadel.

(I gave it a little colour when I went back to London.)

I think that was my favourite part of the trip, drawing with people. Here's musician Maria Toresen and Finnish illustrator Pasi Pitkänen during a talk. (We were actually listening to the talks, but it was fun to draw, too.)

Hee hee, here's a picture Pasi and I drew, taking turns adding things.

I think it started with Pasi drawing the bloke's right eye.

And here's another Pasi doodle in my notebook. He was one of the early illustrators for Angry Birds. (Did you know Angry Birds are from Finland? I didn't! And Skype is Estonian; I didn't know that, either.)

Josie, one of the guest's daughters, drew this fine drawing of everyone at the table.

Some day I vow to draw SILK festival organiser and fundraiser John Rullestad when it's not dark and he's not constantly moving. (Except he's always moving.) Huge thanks to John and his wife Helga for all the work they put into the festival!

Such a cosy lounge area. (We called it the Green Room, standard festival jargon for an author lounge, but it was actually blue.)

And here are a couple early-morning photos of Skudeneshavn, just before Kjetil Berntsen drove me to the airport. (By car; Kjetil usually drives massive ferry boats.)

I'm going to miss the place.

One last view of the island of Karmøy, flying out of Haugesund Airport to Oslo.

This is the closest I may ever get to space travel.

Lovely Stuart came to meet me at Gatwick, and we went home and broke into the Norwegian treats.

Silje bought me the 'Julebrunost', which is traditional brown cheese (brunost) but with added festive cardamom. I LOVE brunost and Julebrunost is HEAVENLY. (...Stuart says it's okay, but he wouldn't want it every day.)

Stuart made dinner, including his famous pear and ginger brioche pudding (recipe here). Yum yum.

Huge thanks to all the lovely Norwegians who made the festival happen, you were amazing! And so great to have the chance to meet so many fascinating guests. A brilliant week.

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8. Norway day 7

Here are some drawings from the SILK Festival Green Room last night! I'm doing one more family picture book event today at the Skudeneshavn Culture Centre at 10:30, then a book signing in the town bookshop from 1:30-2:30, and back to London tomorrow.

Lyndy Cooke (from the Hay Festival):

And Rosie Goldsmith. We both love the colour red.

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9. norway day 6

Last night I sat through a lecture in Norwegian, which was great, because it meant Norwegian war correspondent Odd Karsten Tveit was sitting very still and I could draw him. Apparently he's a bit of a legend in Norway for not breaking stride while reporting in the middle of a gun battle.

And here's Odd in the festival Green Room with Uzbek writer Hamid Ismailov.

And here's my favourite drawing of the day, a taco-eating monster, by a girl at Sørhåland primary school. Norwegians really love their tacos.

And I really love Norwegian breakfast, especially the cinnamon rolls.

Here's singer-songwriter Maria Toresen with the daughter of one of the festival team. I love this picture, it's like an old painting.

lj-cut text="Click here for more under the cut!">
Today I wore a new dress by Esther Marfo, and here's SILK Festival regular, fab journalist Rosie Goldsmith.

My first event took place at Holmen by the sea, with a 50 teenagers from Skudeneshavn secondary school.


They were a very shy lot - it was impossible to get them to say anything in front of their peers - but they were nice enough otherwise and drew pugs with me.

For my second event, two official representatives from Skudeneshavn primary school came to the festival Green Room to pick me up.

These younger kids didn't speak all that much English, but they were bursting with questions and the teachers very gamely translated for us when we had any problems communicating. They were lots of fun.

Lunch time in the staff room included 'teacher candy', which I hear you can find in every staff room in Norway. (The banana-flavoured ones are usually the last to get eaten.)

And my third event was at Sørhåland primary school. I think this is the last time we'll get to draw pugs together in Norway, and they did a good job.

We had a little bit of extra time and did some general character design doodling, and they came up with some rather lovely images. I love it when kids draw really boldly, in dark pen; you get some fascinating shapes.

And here's a little glimpse at where I've been staying all week. Such a lovely street, I'll miss Skudeneshavn when I leave on Sunday.

Big thanks to teachers, organisers, kids and drivers who made today go so smoothly!

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10. norway day 5

Today I visited a Haugaland vocational college in Haugesund, on the Norwegian mainland and made lots of pug-themed comics with 16- and 17-year-olds there. Here's a quick-draw comic I made:

To be honest, of all the week's events, I was most nervous about this one because of the age range; kids this age can be very sensitive if they feel they're being patronised in any way, and the last time I worked with Norwegian kids this age, they were quite sullen and wouldn't say anything at all, even if asked a direct question, for fear of speaking poor English in front of their classmates. But this time it was a lot better. The students weren't obvious candidates, studying hairdressing, interior design and other things not entirely connected to illustration, but they were much better humoured.

All but one or two of them wouldn't volunteer any ideas, but at least they didn't glare at me or get upset. And when I asked if anyone had any questions, they didn't, until class was over, and then a small core group of them came and talked with me privately, and turned out to be quite enthusiastic, and very interested in illustration and comics.

So I went away feeling much better about the day, that I hadn't been wasting time on them. We kept the subject matter quite light; I didn't want them to take their comics too seriously and stress out about them.

We did the same Pugs of the Frozen North activities that I'd done on previous days with younger kids, but I figure it's something I'd have fun doing even as an adult, so I stuck with it.

Here's a little peek at the interior, very modern and industrial, but brightly coloured.

I loved this dress on display in the hallway. I'd love to try making one, as long as I could make sure I didn't get caught in the rain.

And now I'm back in my apartment in Skudeneshavn, having some comfort tea, knekkebrød (which is fun to say), and a caramel-ish brown cheese called brunost (which is fun to eat, I love it so much).

Thanks so much to the SILK festival drivers, organisers, teachers and kids who took part today!

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11. norway day 4

Today was the first day I didn't have to take a nap after school visits, and thereby miss getting a chance to visit Johannes at his waffle cafe before closing time. I pottered down the road to say hello to him, and he wouldn't let me pay for my waffle and coffee, so I drew him a picture of Iris from Oliver and the Seawigs in his guest book.

Yummy Johanneswaffel!

And Johannes's cafe, just a few doors down from where I'm staying in Skudenshavn this week.

One of the festival workers, Astrid, took me on a beautiful misty morning drive up the east coast of Karmøy to Kopervik School.

This year group was absolutely wonderful; they were at that perfect age where they're getting very literate and their English is good, but they're not yet overly self-conscious or afraid to have wild ideas for fear of looking silly to their peers. We had a lot of fun. They were good at drawing, too; and drew large and bold.

These pugs really made me laugh.

And here are some of the pug-based Comic Jams:

Fun teachers:

And here's the second, slightly older group. We had something funny happen: we were discussing 'perils' while we were playing the board game we'd made, and suddenly we were hit with our own peril when the fire alarm went off. A lot of the kids in other years didn't know I was there, and there was much costume ogling from the littlest kids as I queued up on the playground with my class.

Big thanks to everyone at Kopevik who made the visit go so well, and to Astrid and Jan Arve for giving me lifts back and forth!

Oo, just as I was leaving, I hit one more peril: total tiara malfunction! Eek! I'll need to make a date with a hot glue gun at some point.

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12. Norway days 2 & 3

Two more days of Norway school visits! I wasn't entirely planning to make this visit a comics-themed visit, but comics games work so well that I've fallen into it anyway.

I'm back at my loft apartment above the art gallery, blogging on their little wooden table in front of the window overlooking the orange roofs of Skudeneshavn, with Radio Norge playing... uh... Phil Collins... in the background. This evening as I was coming home from dinner, a young couple (Peter and Lisa) spotted me and said they recognised me from Skudeneshavn's top 'feel-good book', by Svein Arthur Kallevik.

Oddly enough, Svein Arthur spotted me on London Southbank when Philip Reeve and I were on our London Pugwalk, and recognised me from the encounter at Johannes's waffle cafe, even under the wig and icicle tiara! I didn't realise I was in his book, which was a nice surprise. :)

(Here's my drawing of Johannes from February last year.)

On this visit, I'm staying in the apartment connected with Studio 21, a new gallery run by Eli Aarskog Monsen and Ingvar Torbjørn Øritsland. For the SILK Festival this week, they're featuring the lovely graphic work of Stavanger-based artist < ahref="http://www.anettemoi.com/">Anette Moi</a>. The gallery's shut on Mondays, but they opened it up after my first day of school visits to show me the exhibitions. The prints are all very reasonably priced and I hope they make lots of sales. (You can see details about Studio 21 on Facebook.)

Check out Anette Moi's picture book, I Love Stavanger. Such pretty colours and wonky lines!

And these pictures made me smile, especially the polar bear.

Some drawings of Stavanger buildings, which made me want to go out and draw a bunch of Skudeneshavn buildings... (I hope I have some time to do it on this trip!)

Love her sense of design so much.

Right, back to school visits! The very first school I visited was Torvasted Primary School, and it's so brand-new that the building's only been open for one month!

Norwegian kids tend to be very cheeky, but this group was cheeky in a really nice way, and I enjoyed the visit very much. I'd only ever done Pugs of the Frozen North events as a double act with writer Philip Reeve, so I was wondering how it would work, but it seemed to go well.

We used pugs as characters and set off on Comic Jams featuring our pugs. (They tell me that 'pugs' is 'mops' in Norwegian.)

The kids drew quite confidently, it was nice to see. (In our Comic Jam, each of the four panels is drawn by a different person. You can find out more about Comic Jams over on the Jampires website.)

This comic made me laugh. I told them I might use the 'It is hurting' panel for my new Facebook profile picture, ha ha.

Teacher Evy Vikingstad gave me a tour of the library and I went straight for the stacks of Norwegian picture books, to see if I could find out about some Norwegian illustrators.

Some of the pictures in this book by Per Dybvig made me smile:

And then I got to have lunch with Headmistress Liv Hammervold, Norwegian rapper Lars A. Toennessen and tattoo artist Anders Meland. Lars and Anders are travelling around the country for ten weeks teaching all-day juggling workshops, which culminate with a performance of the children's new skills at the end of the day. They've been doing it for years and kids look forward to being in Year 7 so they can take part.

A little peek at the pretty, very Norwegian school lunch:

In the afternoon, I visited Avaldsnes School, which is very near the Viking Museum I toured on my first visit to Norway. There's an island nearby where more than 10,000 people gather every year to camp, in the old style, dressed as Vikings. So here are a few of our Vikings, with their Comic Jams:

And my nice teacher hosts, with a glimpse of the library on the left.

This morning, I started my second day of visits at Sevland School. I like this wooden tower stuck in the middle:

And here's my group with their Comic Jams! A lot of them sent me messages on Instagram, which made me laugh because I usually work with younger children who aren't on social media, so I'm not used to getting messages from 11-12 year-olds, but it was very sweet of them.

Here's part of the giant Great Northern Race board game they helped me make. They suggested a Viking as one of the perils, and we were going to give him a sword, but then decided an attack chicken would be funnier.

I love seeing what ideas the kids have for their pug stories, especially when they draw them very boldly, like this one.

I like the 'Kaboosh' sound the lightning makes!

And this wins so far for most glam pug.

Lunch in the staff room, and you can just about see SILK Festival's Silje Maria Skaadel (in front), who was my excellent driver for most of the day.

And then we went to a very small school. The state had closed it, but the community wanted so badly to keep their school that they reopened it privately, as Kvalavag Montessori School. It's in a beautiful, wild-looking rocky area, and I had my nose glued to the car window the whole way.

They were a really fun, enthusiastic group of kids and funnily enough they all had mobile phones, so we had a massive selfie session at the end. (I wonder if any of them will pop up on my Instagram!)

Here you can see some pug drawings and a Comics Jam:

Poor pug is stuck in cheese on Pizza Planet:

Here's a lovely teacher, and SILK Festival's stalwart trouper Ellen Skaadel, who drove me on the last leg of that day's tour.

Thanks so much to the four schools for hosting me, and John, Silje and Ellen for looking after me!

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13. jampires at gosh comics

Today was Jampires painting day! My co-writer/co-illustrator David O'Connell and I had fun mucking about with Posca pens in the front window of Gosh Comics in Soho.

Painting on windows is strange, the opposite to painting on paper, because the first colours you apply to the glass are the ones that show in front. So I kept running around to the front of the window to check we were doing all right. The other thing about painting on windows is that you have people watching you! Which is actually quite fun, because you can wave at each other and see them heading off with their freshly signed Jampires books. I love this photo of Lily with her new book, tweeted by Charlotte Hacking:

Ta-dah! All finished! We're keeping our fingers crossed that Gosh will leave it up for Christmas as well as Halloween. You can knit a Jampire to go along with your book if you want to download the free pattern (along with lots of other activities) at jampires.com.

Maybe they will; Neill Cameron's lovely Pirates of Pangaea painting is still in the window!

Dave and I signed a lot of stock, so you can still get copies of the Jampires picture book and mini comic, Dave's Monster & Chips series, and my Dinosaur Police, There's a Shark in the Bath, Morris the Mankiest Monster and You Can't Eat a Princess!. We also met a nice Scottish chappie named Mark Millar who also makes comics and film stuff, and ladies in nice costumes like to pose for photos with him.

I'm off to Norway for a week packed full of school visits and a festival, so I'll have more news soon (but I might be a bit slow getting back to e-mails and things).

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14. Dressing up!

Check out these amazing costumes tweeted from Washington DC by @LizOnTheHill! On Instagram, she wrote: Book Character parade! Who doesn't love a people-eating cake from Cakes In Space and the Dreaded Thurlstone from Oliver and the Seawigs? ...How awesome is that!!

In the run up to Halloween, I always see debate on the Internet about acceptable ways of dressing up. A lot of my British friends think you can only wear spooky, ghastly clothing. I grew up with the American tradition that you could dress up as ANYTHING, as long as it would get you a big bag full of candy when you went door-to-door trick-or-treating. I much prefer that latter version and, to be honest, some of the older kids' scary costumes genuinely frightened me, and I don't get very excited about scaring kiddies. My costumes have included a chicken, a cat, a mouse, a painter, a witch, a pirate, and, uh, Ronald Regan. (Okay, that was a little scary.)

Tomorrow my friend and Jampires co-author David O'Connell and I will be painting Jampires on the windows at Gosh Comics! Come get your books and comics and we can sign and doodle them for you. Lots of family fun going on at Gosh that day, details here. (Visit Jampires.com for more free Jampires fun.)

Jampires photo tweeted by @nidpor

You can read a Jampires review of the book and comic - in rhyming verse! - by Jeremy Briggs over on DownTheTubes.

And the Internet goes wild as my studio mate Elissa Elwick posts MOOMIN GINGERBREAD on her vegan food blog. Click here for the recipe on her Tumblr page and more good stuff!

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15. lakes interntational comic art festival 2015

I love how the town of Kendal in the Lakes District puts on a good display when it's time for its Lakes International Comic Art Festival!

One of the highlights for me of comic festivals is when I see young comics creators publishing their own work and experimenting with fun ways to market it. Check out this great stand by Zoom Rockman! (He's been publishing since he was eight years old.)

Here's his Skanky Pigeon character and, hey, a few friends and I have little cameos in The Zoom comic!

When I first saw Zoom at LICAF, he was drawing grumpy faces onto the spuds he put into his Unhappy Meals (shown here). He's @The_ZoomComic on Twitter.

And hey, two more familiar faces!

Here's Jordan Vigay, whom I first met at Animated Exeter festival, and then again at The Phoenix Comic festival in Oxford. He publishes The Red Crow comic. (He's just joined Twitter as @JordanVigay.)

And here's Jonny Toons, whom I first met at Thought Bubble festival in Leeds. His comics magazine's called Crystal Orb and you can follow him on Twitter at @JonnyToons.

And this week The Bookseller reported that both Jordan and Jonny will be contributing to The Phoenix Comic, which is very exciting!

The other awesome thing about LICAF was being there when Philip Reeve and concept artist Ian McQue met for the very first time! Ian's art is hugely inspired by Philip's Mortal Engines quartet, and I think Ian's artwork has helped shape how a lot of fans see that world now. (Here's an early image of the traction city of London.) I had dinner with them and it was fun seeing them be such mutual fanboys. Philip's Railhead publisher, Oxford Univerity Press, commissioned Ian to do several book-related images, and here's his digital painting of a Hive Monk:

I wasn't able to go to their Railhead event because I had an event at the same time (gah!!) but I hear it was packed-out and amazing, with Ian doing live drawing while Philip did readings from the book.

Photo by Sofi Croft on Twitter

Philp and I felt honoured to be asked to features our new book together, Pugs of the Frozen North, for the festival finale show. Here on the Reeve & McIntyre Sofa of Mystery are some top snow scientists we discovered in the audience.

Photo by Jody Lawson on Twitter

It was fun meeting people after the show; check out this beautiful crocheted pug! (Here's a free pattern if you want to try knitting a pug!)

And we even had our portraits drawn by a couple member of the audience! (Thanks to Forbidden Planet for hosting that signing.)

Other exciting things: seeing Skipton-based comics collective Team Ketchup and their second comic anthology.

I think Jody Lawson took this photo, too!

Hey, spot the yeti from when I illustrated the Summer Reading Challenge! So fab!

I didn't have a lot of time to run around buying comics, but I really, REALLY wanted to get copies of the 24-Hour Comic Marathon publications. I took part in the 24-Hour Comic Marathon last year (you can read my comic here) and it was a gruelling thing to do - make a 24-page comic book in 24 hours - but a lot of fun, too, and sort of therapeutic to pump out a book that fast, and then have it printed and ready to sell the very next day. (Publishing can feel so SLOW sometimes!) And here are all six comics from this year, completed the day before I bought them!

Emma Vieceli was one of the artists who took part (and she's also a LICAF Patron):

Here's John Allison's comic:

And Jade Sarson's!

Here you can get a peek of some of the interiors...

Check out this page of Jonathan Edwards (Jontofski)'s 24-Hour Comic, and its pencil rough! He painted the pink tones first, then drew the black ink on top. Such beautiful compositions. Hopefully all six comics will be collected into a book, like the 24 by 7 book that Fanfare published of our comics last year.

Dan Berry and Richard Short also made 24-Hour Comics. But not all the comics that weekend were drawn on paper; Joe Decie (who took part in the 24-Hour Comic Marathon with me last year) painted a comic with acrylic pant on a wall in the walkway between two pubs.

You can see more photos here on Joe's Tumblr page.

The other terrific thing I saw at the festival was The Three Rooms in Valerie's Head, a performance by writer David Gaffney, comics creator Dan Berry and musician Sara Lowes. I had no idea what to expect - Dan gave me the tickets on the street - and it was FASCINATING. Dan, David and Sara were like a band, immersing us, the theatre audience, into their weird and wonderful story. We could see them looking to each other for the timing, and it was fun watching Dan's face as he could see and hear people's immediate response to each panel of his comic on the screen while David Gaffney gave a dramatic reading of the text. There weren't any speech bubbles in the artwork, David supplied all the words, which made it almost like watching a rough animated film. The story was, in turns, creepy, mysterious and very funny.

Like last year, Dan had been in charge of this year's 24-Hour Comic Marathon and taken part himself again. He also teaches, and hosts the incredible Make It Then Tell Everybody podcasts, and I don't know where he found the time to make SO MANY images for this peformance, but it was wonderful. I really hope they take it on tour, to places such as the Edinburgh Book Festival; people will love this show.

Oh, and another highlight was meeting Nev the Pug, together with his devotee Laura Sneddon.

There wasn't a lot of dressing up at this particular festival, but I did spot a few ace costumes, including this Batgirl in my signing queue in the Page 45 room. (Spot my Jampires book with David O'Connell - which started with a Comic Jam! - and my picture book There's a Shark in the Bath.)

Page 45 is a terrific Nottingham-based bookshop, hosted by the hugely knowledgeable Stephen Holland and Jonathan Rigby. And Stephen was having a big birthday! Philip and I drew him a card with lots of cuddles from pugs and Sea Monkeys. (You can read Stephen's highly illustrated review of Pugs of the Frozen North on the shop website. They ship internationally!)

But I wasn't just doing Pugs events, I also hosted a Dinosaur Police event, along with a handy local police officer.

Check out the T-Rex drawings kids made!

I wasn't sure what age the audience was going to be, but we had five-year-olds, teenagers, adults, and it was good fun.

Oo, there's one by a mum, on the right. I love it when the adults get involved and draw, too.

I had everyone create a profession for their dinosaur:

And this guy started turning his Football Dinosaur into a comic. I hope he kept going with it!

Philip Reeve and I also led a Comics Jam session in Kendal Libary. (Here's a selfie with the people who took part in the background.)

The great thing about a Comics Jam is that everyone comes away with a comic, and they all take exactly the same amount of time to create!

Here are a couple of the comics people made.

Hey look, it's Dr Mel Gibson, a genuine comics doctor! And she's brought her suitcase of recommended comics for her own workshop.

I could tell a lot of these kids in our sessions had comic-creator parents; the level of drawing was very high!

And it was great to catch up a bit with people I hadn't seen for ages, including the small-but-very-remarkable Felt Mistress, Louise Evans.

Felt Mistress and Jontofski are such a power couple: Jonathan draws creatures, Felt Mistress sews them, and we all get to enjoy them.

It's Supercrash author Darryl Cunningham!

And Canadian artist Kate Beaton! I love her history comics SO much and she has two new books out: a picture book called The Princess and the Pony and a collection of comics called Step Aside Pops!.

It's Asia Alfasi! I first met her at Hi-Ex festival in Inverness, but I hadn't seen her in years, and I wish I'd had more time to catch up with her. (Can someone remind me of the name of her tablemate? I used to know and I've blanked!)

Great to see Sally Kindberg and Steven Appleby:

In the pub, it's French creator Boulet, Nora Goldberg, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson Cadwell and John Allison:

My former studio mate Ellen Lindner, over from New York City with her husband Stephen Betts:

Andrew Ruddick (aka Pud) and Emma Vieceli (who often has a hard time getting all her books at comics festivals, and Page 45 had ALL THE BOOKS. Wahey!)

Ed Hillyer (aka ILYA) and Jontofski:

Stephen Holland and Jonathan Rigby:

And, of course, a HUGE THANKS to the red-shirted team who ran the festival so beautifully! Julie Tait, Carole Tait, Angela Diggle, Phil Welch, Katie White and everyone who helped out! And my wonderful hosts at Ash Meadows Guest House, Philippa and Peter!

You guys were amazing. Follow LICAF on Twitter at @comicartfest!

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16. #picturesmeanbusiness: independent publishers guild

Original full-colour photo by Dave Warren

Hey, I've written an article I wrote about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign for the Independent Publishers Guild: How Metadata can Make or Break Illustrators, and feel free to share! (Here's their article Twitter link.)

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17. pugs - and dragons! - of the frozen north

Why get 66 pugs to pull your dog sled when you can get a DRAGON to fly your sled all the way to the North Pole? (Go, Bernard!)

I love it when teachers take our books and make them their own, building new stories inspired by the things the class found in them. Essex teacher Claire Williams worked with me to create this Pugs of the Frozen North classroom pack (which you can download from my website) and has sent fun photos of some of the activities in action.

To create the 'Great Northern Race' dogsled teams, the parents came in to help!

Check out the various sled teams around the top of the room! Kids could imagine whatever kind of creature they liked to pull their sled. (In the book, Philip Reeve and I didn't have just dogs, but also polar bears and dog-shaped robots. But there was room for lots more creatures!)

Dragons appeared very popular. Dragons are cool.

A giant bumblebee, I never would have thought of that! Ace.

You can visit Claire's classroom blog and find out more about what they got up to, activities from the notes and other wonderful things she thought up with her Polar Bear class at St Andrew's C of E Primary School in Halstead. I love her enthusiasm and creativity, she sounds like a brilliant teacher.

Thank you, Claire and the Polar Bears! It looks fabulous!

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18. help! we need to find a new fleece station studio!

Hello, everyone! It's the Fleece Station here. We've had a wonderful six years working together in the Old Police Station in Deptford, but our lease is running out and we need to find a new space. We need a new studio and we were wondering if you could help us!

There are three of us (and Gary's dog), and we all write and illustrate children's books, and were wondering if you know of a space that has:

* natural light
* electricity
* good Internet
* a loo
* a sink or somewhere to get drinking water
* space for four work tables and some bookshelves and cabinets (250 square feet or more, ideally)
* warm enough for working in winter, or with the possibility of adding some extra insulation
* 24-hour access
* reasonable security

Ideally we'd love to be near other creative people working and some sort of communal space and/or shops and cafes nearby, possibly in Deptford (our top-choice location), New Cross, Lewisham, Greenwich, London Bridge, Maze Hill or Blackheath. We've run into a few places that don't want to host us because we're not fine artists and our work is commercial, so we're going to have to find a place that doesn't mind having us working in there most days as our main money-earning job.

We will probably need to move out by next November, but we thought we'd better start getting on some waiting lists, and we could move in sooner if a new place came up.

If you're reading this and haven't heard of us, here's Gary Northfield! His most recent books are Julius Zebra with Walker Books and Gary's Garden with David Fickling Books, but he's done loads of others, and created comic strips for The Beano and The Phoenix Comic, among others.

I'm Sarah McIntyre and my most recent books are Dinosaur Police with Scholastic UK, Pugs of the Frozen North, with Philip Reeve and Oxford University Press, and Jampires with David O'Connell and David Fickling Books.

And here's Elissa Elwick, who's working on the first of four Little Adventurers picture books for Walker Books with writer Philip Ardagh, and who previously published The Princess and the Sleep Stealer with Macmillan.

And here are the books we've worked on, mostly in our studio together. What we do in our studio is mostly drawing, painting, digital artwork, scanning, printing, storing our books and drinking lots of tea.

Gary and I have been joined by a few other studio mates in the past, including Viviane Schwarz, Lauren O'Farrell and Ellen Lindner. You can see a bit of Fleece Station history in this video from 2012, right before Elissa joined us.

We'd be very grateful for your leads, if you know of a space, or if you can spread the word to people who might know!

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19. pugs roadshow fast approaching!

'So what's happening in Reeve & McIntyre land?' I hear you ask. (Did you ask? Well, let's pretend that you did.) We're just about to embark on the PUGS ROADSHOW!

And up north, near Manchester, a certain bookshop in Bramhall has been completely invaded by lovely knitted pugs...

Who could have created such wonders? 'Tis these lovely ladies, friends of Simply Books, where Reeve & I will be visiting next Monday evening! Here's the link to the free pattern if you'd like to knit your own pug (and tweet us a photo!).

The Simply Books event is now sold out, but you can still book tickets for fun Pugs of the Frozen North sessions in Bath, Cheltenham, Kendal and London (details here) and we'll also be doing lots of school events. You can follow our progress on Twitter at the #PugsRoadshow hashtag.

We'll be stopping in Bath, and John McLay and the Bath Kids Lit Fest are having a fundraising auction selling red chair artwork by a whole host of amazing artists. Do check out the catalogue here! Philip and I have both contributed artwork, and they'll launch the online auction here on Ebay starting on 1 Oct.

In Pugs of the Frozen North, we talk about some of the fifty kinds of snow you get in 'True Winter'. And today I've learned from this Guardian article by Alison Flood that the Scots have at least 421 words for snow. I really must check that thesaurus to be sure they include some of the fifty kinds of snow in our Pugs book: stinksnow, singing snow, shrinksnow, I'm sure they must all be there.

And while we're at it, I have to brag that a few weeks ago I had dinner sitting next to Susan Rennie, who translates Tintin comics into Scots dialect. How cool is that?

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20. Pugs Roadshow, Day 1

The #PugsRoadshow begins! Yesterday Philip and I visited Simply Books in Bramhall, near Manchester, and met some gorgeous pugs and some very enthusiastic families. Here you can see Betty (in my arms) and Philip in full explorer gear. (Well, he forgot his hat.)

Photo by Judy Rigby

Here's the shop, and the lovely owners, Andrew and Sue, who are hosting us on a bunch of school visits in... oh, nine minutes. Eek!

Check out these amazing knitted pugs!

And here are our lovely knitters who created them all! (You, too, can knit a pug if you want to download the free pattern, created by Ms Deadly Knitshade.)

We got to meet kids from loads of schools, including Greenbanks and Hurdsfield schools.

Dog biscuits! For people. Mmmm.

Thanks for all your help, Jill!

And lovely BOO. And Betty. LOVE.

Good journaling going on here!

We like to keep our publicist, Liz Scott, very busy with inflatables and feeding our new pug, Kathy.

He doesn't like olives, oddly. (Nor does Kathy.)

If you want to learn how to draw a pug, you can download a drawing sheet here!

And oh my, it's time to go! Coming, Liz!

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21. pictures mean business: in the spotlight

This week I haven't had much chance to keep an eye on the latest #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign developments, but thankfully people have still been talking about it!

I've been traveling around the country on the #PugsRoadshow tour with a relay team of Oxford University Press publicists and my Pugs of the Frozen North co-author, Philip Reeve. I thought there would be time to blog on tour, but it's been FULL-ON stage shows to thousands of kids and I've only managed to crash into bed at night, getting up early for the next morning school event.

On Tuesday, I'd been invited to a London reception for The Hospital Club 100 Awards, but I couldn't manage to get away from the tour to go, and since there were lots of big names on the shortlist, I was pretty sure I wouldn't win. So I was very surprised to get a tweet from @TheHospitalClub saying I had indeed won the award, which honoured the work done to promote the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, followed by Sarah Shaffi's article in The Bookseller.

To be honest, I didn't quite get it; there are a lot of managing directors and people who are a lot more powerful in publishing than me; I'm pretty small-fry. So I looked into the award a bit more, and watched a video of the judges talking about what kind of people they were looking for in granting the awards:

* Somebody who doesn’t start a sentence with ‘The problem about publishing is…’ but they look at the challenges and the opportunities. - Simon Trewin

* Somebody who is making a mark and accelerating change. - Damian Horner

* What we are looking for in a winner is somebody who is challenging publishing and the wider book business. - Philip Jones

And I guess that's it, I have been trying to bring about change in a positive way: I know people in publishing care about illustrators and want to better for them, they just haven't realised how. At first I felt kind of embarrassed even to retweet the news, because I don't claim to be a major force in publishing, and I know lots of people have been trying for a long time to get illustrators better credited for their work. But here's why I think this year's been good timing for a campaign:

* Publishers are plugged into Twitter and illustrators can make it work for us. There's been a lot of attention concentrated around the Twitter hashtag #PicturesMeanBusiness because it's pulled the conversation together; people have been able to use it as a reference point without having to explain the whole argument each time:

* The digital age means pictures are more important than ever. Another reason I think the campaign has gained ground is because so much of what people read now is on the Internet, and the Internet is SO driven by images, and the sharing of images. Tweets that have images attached to them often travel much further than words-only tweets. Sites such as BuzzFeed know they need to break up their articles with images to make them go viral. Last year everyone thought the book was going to be dead soon because of ebooks, but instead we've seen growth in illustrated children's books and in luxury editions that people buy as beautifully designed objects; readers love the visual and tactile aspects of their books and they often want more than generic-looking words on a screen. Publishers are realising more and more that children want illustrated chapter books to fill the huge gap between picture books and text-only books. They're used to reading stories with pictures on many platforms (just like their parents, who share Facebook pictures) and ripping them suddenly away from illustrated stories can turn them off to reading entirely.

* Craft and making things is a huge force right now in publishing. People don't just want recipe books, they want to know about people who make the food. People like the idea of things being created by identifiable people; thus the rise in celebrity chefs and shows like Great British Bake Off. Readers and viewers like to connect with people who make things, and people find illustration a heartwarming concept. Colouring books are huge right now, lots of people want to play a part in creating images.

So the campaign is timely; it's impossible these days to argue that illustrations and cover designs aren't part of what make books sell. And freelance illustrators (and photographers) know they need to build their names as brands to establish their careers; these pictures don't create themselves.

Some advances we've seen this year:

* More publishers seem to be including illustrators' names on the front covers of highly illustrated books.

I don't have any concrete statistics about how many of these decisions were made because publishers were aware of the campaign, but from what I hear, it seems to be helping. I've had several e-mails from illustrators who hadn't previously been credited on covers, saying that because of the campaign, their publishers had reconsidered and are now going to give them a front cover credit.

* I've seen some growing expectation that celebrity writers will credit their illustrators when talking about their books to the media.

* Some illustrators seem to be realising that they need to speak up for themselves, and the hashtag gives weight to what they're saying. Hopefully agents are also more aware and are helping illustrators negotiate better contracts that don't leave cover credits and other crediting to the whim of marketing people near publishing time.

But we still face stiff challenges. I've had a lot of e-mails, direct messages and conversations with illustrators who are too scared to tweet using #PicturesMeanBusiness when an issue arises affecting their own books and branding, but who feel very strongly about the issue. They're afraid that they won't get more work if they try to negotiate a better deal for themselves or point out a failure in crediting, and they worry they'll be branded 'trouble'. By having a campaign, we're able to defend each other to a certain extent, so each person doesn't have to fight alone.

But the problem with a campaign is that it inevitably involves pointing out where people are doing something wrong, so the wrong can be made right. Even though almost everyone agrees with the campaign, I've annoyed several people rather badly by pointing out places where they should have credited illustrators. I do worry it will affect my own career, but I've had a sort of safety blanket because I work with Philip Reeve, who's an incredibly supportive co-author:

And my publishers - Oxford University Press Children's, Scholastic UK and David Fickling Books - all care about their illustrators and agree with the campaign. So I really owe it to them, that I haven't, like so many other illustrators, felt afraid I'd be risking my whole career to say anything.

Touring as an illustrator (and co-author) with Philip this week on the Pugs Roadshow has really shown me the power of images with kids; so many of them connect with our event when they get a chance to draw, and see us drawing. To pretend that Philip created the whole book and to ignore its many pictures would just be silly and miss a real chance to inspire them. The audiences are able to see that the pictures in the books they hold in their hands are created by a real person and connect with the story through the illustrations as well as through the words.

In his interview about The Hospital Club 100 Award, judge Simon Trewin made this point:

A lot is talked about what is going wrong with publishing at the moment. I think what is exciting about publishing is an opportunity for readers to develop a direct connection with people writing books. Whether it’s through blogs or vlogs, we have a direct connection now, and direct connections, in my experience, stimulate sales.

I agree, and with my #PicturesMeanBusiness badge on, I'd say that letting readers have direct connections with illustrators is a crucial part of interesting them in the book and making them want to read more. Creating enthusiastic readers is in everyone's interest, not just those of illustrators.

Thanks very much to The Hospital Club for the award, and the chance to spread the news further about #PicturesMeanBusiness!

Find out more at www.picturesmeanbusiness.com. (And here's the whole judges' video if you want to watch.)

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22. pugs of the frozen north: ten things I learned on book tour

I've done lots of events in the past, but last week was the first time I've ever gone on an Official Book Tour! Here are ten things I learned, while travelling around the country telling people about Pugs of the Frozen North with my co-author, Philip Reeve.

1. Touring turns me into an incurable fantasist: When Philip and I talked with kids enough about our 'Refrigerated Pug Bus', it almost feels like we were really touring in one. Our bus had a huge yellow ribbon painted down the side with 66 pugs tumbling along it, and a giant rotating pug sculpture on top of the bus. Sadly we didn't manage to take any photos of it.

2. People who love pugs REALLY LOVE PUGS: It's not like other animals, the Pug Love is completely obsessive and since pugs are great little animals, the love is well deserved.

Fabulous pug owner at Simply Books, Bramhall (near Manchester), super pug fan at Cheltenham Lit Fest

3. Anyone can draw a pug: Some of the best pugs were drawn by people who said they couldn't draw, and some of the really wonky ones were the best and most characterful. (If you want to learn how to draw - or knit! - a pug, click over to my website.)

4. Most of the real work happened before we even arrived at the school: The most eager, attentive, involved children were (rather unsurprisingly) the ones who had already read the book. But even kids who just knew who we were and had been given a bit of buildup by their teachers before the event got way more out of the visit than the kids who had no idea who Philip and I were. We had wonderful audiences except at one school where even a teacher at the end of the event said, 'So... are you the ones who wrote and illustrated this book?' (The book itself and the poster with our book covers, and everything we'd been saying for the past hour hadn't been a clue.) And the same went with book sales: way more kids were able to get excited and take home a book to read when they had pre-ordered books, assisted by our fab booksellers who came along with us. (Kids almost never remember to bring book money on the day and then feel gutted they can't have a book.) There's something very exciting about meeting authors and then immediately being able to go away and read their book, a dedicated and signed copy that they might treasure for a lifetime.

5. I can't get any other work done on tour: I brought along all these other projects - character development for a new book, a magazine article that needs writing, I was going to blog each evening - but with early morning starts, and rolling back from dinner at 11pm or later, all I could do was wash my tights and flop onto the bed, hopefully not forgetting to set my alarm clock.

(The bits where we get to hang out with pugs is more energising than tiring, actually.)

6. Being tired makes me really stupid, and I love my publicists: I had a Frankfurt Book Fair deadline right before the tour and was staying up until 3am to finish artwork. So by the time I went on tour, I was already tired and the first thing I did was have a massive panic that I'd forgotten to pack my yellow costume skirt. After getting my kind next-door neighbour to agree to go upstairs and send it to me courier, I realised I'd rolled it into a tiny ball and stored it in my handbag, and just forgotten to check there. I felt like such an idiot diva. Having a publicist there meant I could focus all my energy and brainpower on the events and the kids, and Philip and I were able to do more events than I would have been able to do in a day I'd organised all by myself. I've been so busy with book deadlines that I haven't been able to take on hardly any school events this year, but with the publicists stacking them all up together for one tour, I was able to hit loads of schools at one go. By the end of each day I was practically jibbering and the pubicists were very patient.

A constant stream of pugs requires the occasional chihuahua break. Publicist Alesha Bonser was very accommodating.

7. I should have made sure my costume had room for expansion: I could have ordered salads every night at the restaurants. But at the end of an exhausting day of school events and travel, I always thought, I deserve this burger/pizza/etc.) Also any cake offered mid-day, like anyone's really going to turn down cake or a biscuit after running around in front of 300 kids. Book tours don't come with a personal trainer and I was bursting out of my dress. Philip and I had a No Pudding Pact, which turned into a No Chip Pact and neither resolution lasted very long.

Home-baked pug biscuits at Simply Books bookshop; publicist Liz Scott with knitted pug 'the pug made me order it'; Bath dinner with Andy Mulligan, Simon Mason, JAKe, Robin Stephens, festival organiser John McLay, Harriet Venn, publicist Alesha Bonser, Philip; and girfan (@MrsHirez) makes the world's best brownies, as seen on the train from Bath to Cheltenham

8. Book tours are awesome: I never could have organised that many visits on my own or met that many people, and Philip and I got better and better at our stage show as we practiced it several times a day. We live far apart, so often the first time we do a show at a big festival, we haven't rehearsed it even once. But after awhile, we start figuring out which activities are a bit cringe-y and which lines get a good laugh. And we get little ukulele blisters on our fingers, which makes us feel like proper musicians, even if we're not.

9. A book tour ends with a huge list of people to thank: Big thanks to Oxford University Press for sending us out! To Liz Scott for all the overall organising and meeting us for the Manchester leg of the tour, Sarah Howells and Karin Andre for the midlands, Hattie Bayly for Essex and Cheltenham, and Alesha Bonser for Essex and Bath, Phil Perry working in the background, and my husband Stuart, for putting up with my packing frenzy and having a lovely hot dinner when I returned.

Huge thanks to Sue & Andrew and their team at Simply Books (including their Knit & Natter team who knitted all the pugs!), Sheryl at Chorleywood Bookshop, Ros with Federation of Children's Book Groups, and Caroline at Just Imagine, and Peters Books Showroom, Earls High School, Stockport Grammar School, Greenbank Prep School, Olive Hill Primary School, Newfield Park Primary School, Butler's Court School, Pinkwell Primary School, Buckhurst Hill Primary School, Alderton Junior School, John McLay and Gill McLay at Bath Kids Lit Fest and Jane Churchill at Cheltenham Lit Fest for hosting us! You can see a few more photos on Twitter at #PugsRoadshow and Philip has blogged about the tour here.

10. Despite all this collaboration and working together malarky, you can only fit one author in a chair at a time. (Yes, I'm looking at YOU, Philip Reeve.)

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23. pictures mean business: calling all agents!

Literary agents! Illustration agents! We need your help!
Sales of illustrated chapter books are booming - David Walliams' and Tony Ross's illustrated novel is at the top of the overall UK sales chart today - but many illustrators are getting cut out of almost all career-advancing publicity.

One of the main reasons is that illustrators (particularly of illustrated fiction, or so-called 'chapter books' or 'middle grade books') aren't getting their names on the front covers of their books. While they're often credited on the back cover or inside the book, it's the front cover that does the publicity rounds, and what readers and reviewers use to judge who created it. If the illustrator's name isn't on the front cover, they're far less likely to get proper recognition in metadata, so their books won't be searchable online. They may get left out of award lists. Their names may not be included at all in Advance Information sheets sent to reviewers (as noted by Fiona Noble at The Bookseller*).

Here's where we need your help! What need you to unite in your efforts to make sure that in contracts, illustrators get a guarantee that their names will be on the front covers of the books they illustrate. My guideline has been any book that has at least one illustration per chapter. In the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, we're not asking for a lot - not even total equality with the writer in front-cover billing - just that there BE a billing. If the publisher wants to put the illustrator's name in smaller font, that's okay, as long as it's visible on the front cover.

We need your help in this because illustrators are afraid; we worry that if we make too much of a fuss, we'll be branded as 'trouble' and the publishers will commission from work from illustrators who don't stand up for themselves. I'm only able to argue the case because I have such solid support from my own agent Jodie Hodges, publishers, series co-author Philip Reeve, and his agent Philippa Milnes-Smith.

Publishers may offer to pay illustrators an extra fee, so they don't have to put their names on the front covers, but this isn't good enough. Why are publishers ashamed to admit their books are illustrated? Illustration is a key selling point, and not showing the book is illustrated inside is missing a key marketing angle. Pretending that the writer did the pictures (in the name of single-name branding) is false advertising. Illustrators work freelance just like writers - we don't get salaries or benefits - and illustrators need to build careers based on our names.

When publishers say there's no room on the cover for the illustrator's name, this is rubbish. Foreign editions often rejig the cover so this isn't a problem, such as my Dutch publisher, who have completely taken the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign on board:

Without a front-cover credit, illustrators are always going to be left out. We need you to urge publishers to be leaders in doing the right thing, not the last publishers to follow, kicking and screaming. Illustrators are watching how publishers respond, and the publishers who continue to put up the most resistance may find they have trouble commissioning work from the best illustrators. We need you as agents to keep an eye on publisher practice, too.

If your illustrator is working with a celebrity writer, don't let the publisher tell you that it's common practice for all celebs to have single billing. This certainly is not the case with picture books, as seen by examples here. (All these covers credit their illustrators.) Celebs are usually much more quick to recognise artistic skill than some publishers, I find, and are pleased (not ashamed) to be paired up with an artist working in a different field to their own.

If you can tweet your support with the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag, we can get a good idea of which agents are supportive and WILL stand up for their illustrators. Even if you don't tweet, we ask that you'll join us in making sure your clients don't get any nasty surprises when their book comes out, uncredited. We need you agents to lead the way, even for illustrators who don't have agents. We need to make the deliberate omission of illustrators something that everyone finds distasteful.

The great thing about this campaign is that, in public, almost everyone agrees with it and supports us fully. It's kind of a no-brainer. But we still need your brains and your clout. Recent sales of physical books show that people are very interested in how books look, their craftsmanship, their tactile qualities. Illustrated chapter books are filling a big niche in the children's book market, in that under-filled gap between picture books and text-only books; it's just the gap where we're losing kids who will turn into readers for life, and pictures really help keep those kids on board. Interest in illustrated books for adults and comics/graphic novels is on the rise. Britain isn't a major manufacturing nation anymore, but illustration is one thing we can be proud to say that we create and export, and we do it very well.

Find out more about the campaign on the website www.picturesmeanbusiness.com and in the Twitter conversation at #PicturesMeanBusiness.


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24. a-z of raihead: L is for lucky!

My co-author on Pugs of the Frozen North, Philip Reeve, has had a strangely divided autumn, promoting our book, and his own entirely dissimilar novel Railhead, also published by Oxford University Press. (I should add, Railhead is amazing, everyone go read it right now.) He's doing an A-Z of Railhead blog tour and I'm lucky enough to host the letter 'L'!

L ...is for Letting Sarah McIntyre Read The Early Versions

Railhead was written in very much the same way as I wrote Mortal Engines. It came together slowly, over a number of years, using and re-using bits from many abandoned experimental versions. That’s pretty much how I always work, but in recent years, with publishing deadlines to meet, I’ve had to compress the process, and limit the number of early drafts. I didn’t have a contract for Railhead, so I was able to take as long as I liked. I ended up writing two or three whole novels before I finally hit on the idea of the trains, which ties the finished book together.

Sarah interjects: This photo I took of Philip appeared in the back of the book, and I got a little photo credit!

In the past, I’ve always been very secretive about what I’m writing. I hear about authors who sit down at the end of each day and read the latest chapter to their partner, but I don’t even like talking about mine. Things changed, however, when I wrote Oliver and the Seawigs: that was a joint effort, with a story and characters which I created with Sarah McIntyre, so of course I had to show it to Sarah as I was going along, so that she could chip in ideas and suggestions. That was fun - it was such fun, in fact, that it made me want to write another full-length book of my own. And I’d learned to trust the Judgement of McIntyre, I started showing her bits of Railhead as I was writing that.

It wasn’t called Railhead then, of course - it was called Untitled Space Epic. It didn’t have Zen as its hero, although I guess the heroes it did have were all forerunners of Zen. It had all sorts of stuff that never made it anywhere near the finished book, although a few names and settings appeared early on and stuck. (The water-moon Tristesse was in there from the start, but it was called Saudade until I realised that M John Harrison had used that name).

I tried out all kinds of different plots, putting rich characters and poor through wild adventures, gradually finding out how this future society worked, the Corporate Families, the Guardians… And McIntyre read them all, or most of them, and she was always complimentary, and ready with helpful observations. I think knowing that someone was waiting to read the latest instalment kept me going long after I would otherwise have given up.

Railhead tribute artwork by concept artist Ian McQue

Sometimes I made more of a character because Sarah liked them - the android called Nova, for instance, but I didn’t always let her influence me. There was a subplot about a girl who had become addicted to a virtual world, and then banished from it. Sarah really liked that part, especially the tragic ending, so I polished up a bit, working out along the way a few details about the Datasea, which is the internet of my future world. But in the end it didn’t fit into the story, so Sarah is the only person who will ever read it. All that survives of it in the final book is the girl’s name, Threnody, which has been given to a different character.

And then I decided that trains, not spaceships, should be what the book revolved around - Sarah was the first person I told about that - and fairly quickly a final(ish) version emerged, which I felt able to show to my agent, who showed it to OUP… and here we are. But we wouldn’t have got here without McIntyre. And while I was preparing the final final version, I Skyped her every day for about a week Sarah interjects: When I was ill with the flu! It was so cheering! and read her the whole thing (it’s very good practise to read your writing aloud, but you feel a bit silly doing it to yourself).

So the first thing most people probably knew about Railhead was Sarah’s picture of the Unshaven Author reading away on her Skype screen. It isn’t a Reeve and McIntyre book, but it wouldn’t be the same book without McIntyre, and it might not be a book at all. Thank you, Sarah!

You're very welcome, Reeve!

You can buy Railhead right here and you can follow Philip on Twitter - @philipreeve1 - and his Facebook page and our joint Reeve & McIntyre Facebook page.

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25. diversity, confusion, outrage and the internet

Diversity in books: It can be a scary topic when discussed on the Internet. I don't want to leave out minorities, and I don't want to be accused of speaking for other people from a position of privilege. I get confused when white people scream at each other online about privilege and I miss 99% of the conversation because I'm too busy trying to meet work deadlines. Half the new debate terms confuse me anyway. I want to promote minority writers and illustrators, but not just because of their minority status but because they're good at what they do. There are a lot of bad white writers and illustrators out there. I'm sure there are bad black writers and illustrators, too. But perhaps my tastes are too white; I could be criticised for this.

I worry about friends who say things and get slaughtered on the Internet; I worry that people jump to conclusions and don't try to listen to what they're really saying because the people ranting are so eager to show how progressive they are. Perhaps they are using a flash point to raise a topic that needs a lot more discussion. But at the expense of one person, shamed on Twitter? I don't know. I suppose the person becomes like a hash tag, polarising people so they can make a point. That seems strangely... dehumanising, being a living hash tag.

I know that I rant sometimes. I worry that I don't listen to people enough or really try to understand what they're saying because I'm trying to make a point, to make what I see as positive changes. The Internet rewards hard, fast point scoring over the slower process of people feeling safe to ask questions, learn and be reconciled with each other.

I worry that I'm using 'I' too much and this blog post is all about me, and I should let someone else have the platform. Perhaps I shouldn't have written this in the first place.

I can't get my head around all the Internet comments. I believe deep down that all people are equally valuable as humans. I try to put a mix of characters into my books, but I don't particularly want my books to be 'issue books', I just want to tell good stories. I want other people of all backgrounds to tell good stories. I'm trying to promote #PicturesMeanBusiness to help illustrators to build their careers, so it will be easier for people from poorer backgrounds to get a foot in the door. I love Ezra Jack Keats' book The Snowy Day because it's a magical story, with a beautiful colour palette and gorgeous shapes and textures. And I think it's cool that, even in 1962, the artist chose to make the main character black. I don't think the story should be discounted because the artist was white, it's a good story. But it's not a story about being black, it's a story about being human and encountering snow, and coming back indoors to warmth.

Enough about me then, go read someone else's work. I should spend less time on the Internet and more time talking face to face with people in my neighbourhood, hearing their stories. Here's a list of links to webcomics featuring black lead characters. (You don't read webcomics? Try a few, you might find something you like.) There are so many different kinds of minorities; it's almost impossible to create a comprehensive list of all the things that make us different from each other, so I'll leave it to this list for now.

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